Has opera finally dyed its grey hair?

Rebecca HutterWed 13th March 2013

The Royal Opera House Student Standby scheme attracted crowds of under-30s to its recent performance of Tosca

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Royal Opera House for a performance of Tosca, having purchased an £8 student ticket a few months ago via the Student Standby scheme.

I was feeling rather smug about the prospect of spending an evening with the distinguished opera crowd; well dressed, well mannered and, generally speaking, of an older age. But this was not the case at all, and I could hardly believe it.

Arriving in the Upper Amphitheatre there was a distinctive ‘buzz’ of excitement that I had never experienced in an opera hall. The seats were filled almost entirely with people under the age of 30, all equally pleased to be part of such a long-standing tradition. I soon realised that we were not the only people who had managed to get on board with this amazing offer, and because of it, everyone seemed equally excited and fortunate to be sitting in such a prestigious venue. My friend and I weren’t even ‘tutted’, despite rushing in two minutes before the production started!

In the two intervals, the upper bar was filled with students and young professionals and it felt as if we could have been in almost any London bar. Knowing that everyone there had a shared love of opera, or at least a general interest in the arts, was really uplifting. It almost goes without saying that under Andrew Sinclair’s direction, the Royal Opera House performance was of an exceptional standard, and Amanda Echalaz’s performance as Floria Tosca was utterly captivating.

It was interesting to compare this with a production of Tosca I saw just a few months ago in the back room of a pub in Islington. Stripped down to its bare bones, the OperaUpClose production was intimate, accessible and innovative, mixing Puccini’s original music with new composition, and reduced instrumentation and cast. It was worlds away from the grandeur and scale of the Royal Opera House, yet both performances were effective in their own right.

Although the two productions could not have been more different, the audience demographic – in the Upper Amphitheatre at least – was almost identical. Having spent the past few years following the progress of numerous musical companies trying out new ways to engage with a younger audience, it was encouraging to see that among the younger generation there is, in fact, still high demand for traditional opera in its purest form.

On my student budget, it’s unlikely that I’ll be forking out £150 any time soon for the Royal Opera House, but I will most definitely be checking my emails for the next student offer!

Rebecca Hutter's picture

Rebecca Hutter

Rebecca recently completed a music degree at the University of Nottingham. She is currently studying for a masters degree in journalism at City University London. Find her on Twitter @rebeccahutter.

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